George Elder Jr., 88, engineer, inventor

December 09, 2005

George H. Elder Jr., a retired mechanical engineer, inventor and insurance man, died of emphysema Saturday at Maryland General Hospital. The longtime Bolton Hill resident was 88.

Mr. Elder was born in Oakmont, Pa., and raised at Pine Grove Farm in Joppa, and later moved with his family to the Elder Farm in Kingsville.

He was a Towson High School graduate and studied engineering at the Johns Hopkins University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He enlisted in the Navy in 1934 and after being discharged in 1938 went to work for F.X. Hooper Co. Inc. in Glen Arm.

Mr. Elder worked for several other engineering companies before joining Bendix Corp. in Towson as a senior engineer during the 1940s.

His work included designing national defense systems, nerve gas test equipment, steering gear for cruisers and aircraft carriers and the control system for aircraft launching systems.

After leaving Bendix in the early 1970s, Mr. Elder began designing equipment for disabled clients of Alliance Inc. The nonprofit company trains and places the disabled in jobs.

"For a quadriplegic nun at Villa Julie College, he designed a switchboard apparatus that allows her to operate the school's telephone system with her tongue," The Sun reported in 1994.

Other inventions included an automatic reading guide that was operated by a push button for several Dundalk Community College students and a slicer attached to a butcher block that allowed a restaurant worker with poor muscle coordination to cut vegetables.

In the late 1980s, he switched careers when he became an insurance underwriter and established an insurance business which he operated with a partner until retiring in 1992.

Mr. Elder enjoyed making elaborate dollhouses with operating elevators and doorbells. He also collected model Lionel and HO-gauge trains and fabricated boxes with secret compartments. Other interests included woodworking, photography and bridge.

Services will be held at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at Trinity Episcopal Church, Manor Road, Long Green.

Mr. Elder is survived by his wife of 32 years, the former Barbara Schwyler; a son, George H. Elder III of Hydes; two daughters, Bonnie Rutherford of Chestertown and Susan Wilson of Fairfax, Va.; two brothers, Thomas N. Elder of Norfolk, Mass., and the Rev. Robert M. Elder of Huntingdon, Pa.; three sisters, Anne Elder and Mary Orville, both of Roanoke, Va., and Susan Malcomb of Niskayuna, N.Y.; a stepdaughter, Cynthia Lindsay Haas of Baltimore; 10 grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and seven step-great-grandchildren. His marriage to the former Martha Holland ended in divorce. His second wife, Ann Merrill, was killed in 1973 in the couple's Stewartstown, Pa., home.

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